When we told Atsuko’s niece and nephew that we were going to see the Gessho-ji temple, they were quite afraid. The original 1664 temple building has been dismantled now but nine generations of family graves of the Matsudaira clan remain. I think children in the area are a little scared simply of the graves but also of the legendary stone turtle, at the base of one gravestone, that is said to wander the grounds and drink from the ponds at night.
Each grave plot is guarded by rows of stone lanterns and has its own intricately carved entrance structure. Even among the exceptional levels of skill found in Japan, some of these gates are beyond comprehension. The patterns and family kamon are so detailed and considering some are over 300 years old, they are still in remarkable condition. Far from these being a frightening experience, we deeply enjoyed walking the grounds after a light rain-shower. The frogs were all around us, croaking to almost deafening levels; we didn’t see a single one however. After the walk, we enjoyed green tea sat for ages chatting in front of a beautiful garden.